Saturday, August 06, 2005

faith discussion (from a friend's facebook wall)

Well, since I haven't posted too much lately, I thought I'd put up this discussion I've been having on one a friend's wall and I thought was pretty interesting (I even color coded the posters: ) I went ahead and included the whole discussion, so it's a little long, but I think some good points are made toward middle and the end. Feel free to continue the discussion with comments if there's anything you might want to add.


Question of the...

"Is faith a principle of condemnation?"
It´s fairly obvious to me that people can have genuine faith in Jesus, or their parents, or that the Qur´an is true, but can we have genuine faith that Jesus is NOT christ, or that the qur´an is NOT true?. Is faith always a positive force or can it be a force for negativity?

That depends on the "faith" we're discussing. Are we talking about purely religious faith or simply a more general faith? Religiously, I think that faith often does imply negatives, at least about everyone else's faith. The Qur'an (I believe) states that Jesus is not Christ, so in order to have faith in the Qur'an, I would think that you would have to hold a similar faith in the fact that Jesus is not Christ. If we're outside the bounds of religion, then I think it's even easier to see negative faiths. After all, I might say that I have faith that the sky will still be blue tomorrow. By the same token, I could say that my faith rests in the fact that the sky will not be yellow tomorrow. ~John

It seems to me like John's talking more about belief than faith. Faith is different from belief in a fact, even a religious one such as "Jesus rose three days after the crucifixion." When we say someone has faith in the truest sense, we mean that they are in touch with what it is to be human, with what is beautiful and meaningful in life. To say we have "faith in Jesus" or the Qu'ran or whatever simply means we understand how this idea or message has put us in touch with that quality that gives meaning to our lives. So when I say "I have faith in Jesus" I mean "I understand that Jesus through his resurrection into the living Body of Christ shows me what is meaningful to my life." This kind of faith is something we all have hopefully experienced at some point in life. Christopher Alexander talks about this quality in his book The Timeless Way of Building: "When we know those moments, when we smile, when we let go, when we are not on guard at all -- these are the moments when our most important forces show themselves; whatever you are doing at such a moment, hold on to it, repeat it -- for that certain smile is the best knowledge that we ever have of what our hidden forces are, and where they live, and how they can be loosed." I think "hidden forces" is a good description, because people are born with an idea of what these moments are, of what is meaningful to life; it's just a question of not letting them get covered up by other things. Faith in its truest sense is the positive act of searching for and holding on to those "most important forces" that give beauty and meaning to life. – Tom

In a way,I must admit, I feel guilty for having brought up such a semantically ambiguous topic. After all, people in different faiths (me as a Mormon as much as anyone) have entirely different definitions of what the word "faith" actually means. Still, hopefully we can come to some intuitive or telepathic mutual understanding of the term, since supposedly we have all experienced faith in our lives. Perhaps we can thus approach agreement.

John, I feel obligated to disagree with you. The Qur´an does indeed state that Jesus is not the Christ. However, I don´t think that having faith in the Qur´an implies faith in Jesus not being the Christ. Having faith in the Qur´an would rather imply that you don´t even Consider that Jesus is the Christ (since to do so would be grave blasphemy in the Muslim tradition). Having faith in the Qur´an might lead you to Disagree with Christians, or even kill them (if you interpret it particularly messily), but I don´t think that it means that you shape your own faith as an inverse to theirs. Rather, your faith must remain independent from theirs. Then again, I don´t really think that Islam and Christianity are any more than superficially different...

Tom, I think I must (vaguely) agree with you.

In my own religion (perhaps I ought not call it a "faith" for the moment) faith is referred to as the "principle of power" that makes active living possible in all animate beings. As such, it is not only faith in the sun rising that tells me to get up in the morning, but also faith in my own capacity that allows me to physically move my own body, and faith in the inherent meaning of my current lifestyle that motivates me to continue studying and questioning. Faith, in my own sense, is that separates the sane man from the insane: a man with faith can continue.

In this sense, it´s rather significant that people often use the word "faith" to refer to their religious affiliation, rather than "church" or "religion". To affiliate oneself with the Christian faith, for example, would be to be motivated to continue progressing through the intended Christian paradigm, including cuiltivating humility, learning, obedience, and (above all) peace and love. Your membership doesn´t motivate it, but rather your faith.

In my own opinion, faith can only be a principle of progress. Since I consider myself (more than anything else) a Christian, I consider this path to include only positive views of the world and mankind. The principles of love and peace (only deeply held principles because my faith has assimilated them into my worldview) leave no room for condemnation. I find that if faith is a shield (as biblical sources suggest) then to focus on things that are not true (that is, things towards which you do not want to progress), even for the brief moment that it takes to disclaim them, is to lower the shield. If faith is a path leading up, condemnation is a descent.

I don´t exactly know where in this analysis to place the criminally malicious, the killers and faith-destroyers out there. Any suggestions?

I disagree with the idea that there is no room for condemnation. To hold a faith in something requires a faith that other things are not true. If I state that "God is Love" then I also firmly believe it is untrue to say "God is Hate." Furthermore, if comdemnation is bad, then how do you reconcile conflicting faiths? Personally, I am not comfortable with "Well, that's what you believe so it's ok for you." At least, not on big differences. (I realize I may be pushing this more theological than you'd like. If so, feel free to pull it back.) –John

I´ll create a whimsical analogy, since I can´t think of any other way to respond. Suppose faith is like reaching a hand out to touch a particularly beautiful flower (or better, lowering your nose to smell it). In my view, to condemn something (or someone) is more like retracting your hand from a thorn. That is, it is cowering back, retreating from an unpleasant object, standing away from it. One is love and one is hate. Love and hate both occupy the mind sufficiently that i´m not sure it´s possible to do both at the same time. –tristan

I don't agree that hate and condemnation are the same. I can condemn behavior or thoughts without having necessarily hating them. –John

John, I don´t know whether you´re right or not. I´ts awfully hard for me to draw a line between hate and condemnation, but it doesn´t necessarily mean there isn´t one. I do think I can say that they are similar. The reason I use them as synonyms here is that hate and condemnation are both methods of focusing negativity on something.
In a way, they exalt the negative as the defining feature of the subject at hand. In this sense, I think hate and condemnation are equally unproductive. I have no idea how I reconcile the fact that I am in effect condemning condemnation. Help?

Can faith be a source of condemnation? Alright words can take on many different meanings, so first I want to establish the difference between genuine faith and “false” faith in a social belief. Okay, let’s suppose that there is a real God in whom we can have genuine faith. Someone in 16th century England might say “I have faith in God” and they might really have genuine faith in God and be inspired to live a loving and creative life. Just as easily though, they might say “I have faith in God” and use that as a reason to burn someone for “witchery.” In the same way a Muslim today might say “I have faith in Allah.” It might be that they have come to know this real God, or maybe it is just their belief in their social conditioning that they are really talking about. My point is that a person’s words do not really tell us anything about their faith. As far as I know, the only way to tell about their faith is through their actions (as discussed in previous posts).
Tristan, about condemning condemnation. Of course, to condemn all types of condemnation would be a contradiction, but remember we are just talking about condemnation in the context of faith. Condemnation cannot come through faith because, as you said, faith is always a positive, building force. Therefore “condemnation through faith” is a false concept. Surely we should condemn what is false, right? Shouldn’t negativity be focused on something that is false? But, John, is it faith that is condemning what is false? Isn’t it always something else that does the condemning? Isn’t it logic, and not faith, that tells us “God is not hate”? Faith shows us what faith is, not what faith is not. –Tom

teehee, you boys are gonna love me, cuz i'm not gonna nearly address all of this. i just wanna submit my opinion that you don't necessarily have to condemn something that's false...can't it just be false? and besides that, i'm not entirely ready to concede that we can always *know* if something is indeed false...but i'm willing to discuss it :-d

love and kisses,


I agree that we cannot know whether somethings are false or not, but I think we probably should go ahead and condemn what we do know (through logic) to be false. One reason to condemn the terrorist bombings, for example, would be that 'condemnation in the name of faith' is false. It just seems to me that what is false always serves to deceive or destroy in some way or another. -Tom


  1. to be technical, faith is the confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. as such, faith is mainly used in the context of religious or spiritual thought. Faith does not inherently condemn other beliefs or faiths but if one's faith dictates that others are incorrect, then yes it obviously is a tool of condemnation. Basically, it all depends on the individual's particular faith in order to answer the initial question.

    And to touch on the middle post by this John fellow, "To hold a faith in something requires a faith that other things are not true. If I state that 'God is Love' then I also firmly believe it is untrue to say 'God is Hate.'" That is not necessarily true. Two truths that appear contradictory may not necessarily be. The Bible states that God is "the alpha and the omega..", in other words, God is all. So for an example, God is both love and hate according to one religion. Again, it all depends upon the particular faith as to whether or not it is a tool for condemnation.

  2. Well, what Tristan and I were trying to say is that all faiths are NOT equal and that there is a "true" faith, which, by its very nature, CANNOT be a tool of condemnation.

    Also, Andrew, it is an accepted mathematical property that if a statement "P" is true, then "not P" must be false. I would claim that there is a "real" type of love that, by its nature, always excludes the possibility of hate being present at the same time. Therefore we can logically conclude "If God is love, then God is not hate."

    I am claiming that if you have this "true" faith, then condemnation will only occur when it believed to be logically necessary. Also, I would say that a "faith" which encourages "condemnation by faith," such as that being taught by those responsible for suicide bombings, and also by any reactionary Christian groups who try to condemn Muslim religion, is not really faith at all. It seems to me that such attitudes come more from social influences and pressures rather and have nothing to do with the true faith that I am talking about.

  3. i understood what you guys were saying. and i'm saying that faith being used as a tool of condemnation depends upon the faith. that's where we differ.

    tom, please don't try and apply mathematical principles to a discussion on faith :P you may claim that there is such a type of love, i certainly agree. but your transitive statement is false because you addressed love, not God: "If God is love, then God is not hate." love is not God. and hence as there is a love that excludes hate, there may not be such a God. (not personal belief, just philosophical point on example that there can be two truths)

    and lastly, your "true faith" spiel is just like muslim fanatics condemning all other religions as heretical. every one of them believe that their's is the "true faith". in fact, i would argue that there are more "societal faithful" (i.e. social pressure) who are christian than there are muslim!